Putting the New Back in New York City

New York City is one of my favorite places to go for a long weekend getaway. It’s fast paced. It’s over the top. It’s intoxicating. I love the feel of the city’s sidewalks meeting my feet and leading me to magical destinations where craft cocktails flow like water, cupcakes are sold at ATMs, and Katie Couric is sitting at the table next to me tapping her foot to smooth jazz.

{Steve Tyrell, Katie Couric, and me at Cafe Carlyle in 2012.}

{Steve Tyrell, Katie Couric, and me at Cafe Carlyle.}

Over the years, I’ve worked up quite a list of my favorite things to do in the city that never sleeps. But on a recent trip to the Big Apple, I decided it was time for a fresh start. I wouldn’t go back to my old haunts like I do each time I visit. Instead, I’d try new restaurants. I’d imbibe at different bars. And I’d forgo my long strolls on the Upper East Side in exchange for adventures through Harlem.

After four days of drinking, eating, and exploring, here are a few of my new favorites.

Beauty & Essex

After reading that Sting and his wife recently shared lobster tacos at the lower east side restaurant, Beauty & Essex, I had to go. Add to it that you have to go through an old pawn shop to get into the place, and the cool factor goes up 10 more points.

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{The pawn shop. The door to the restaurant is on the back wall.}

Once they open the door to the restaurant, it’s easy to see why this tapas style eatery is on the A-list. The decor is vintage cool with art deco accents. The food pairings are unique and understated. The bar is buzzing with beautiful women and men wearing smart glasses. And the craft cocktails? Delicious! The Beauty Elixer is a must. Made with Oxley gin, cucumber, strawberry, and sparking rosé, it’s a refreshingly elegant way to start (and finish) the evening.

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Flatiron Room

The Flatiron Room is a whiskey bar in the Flatiron District, where drinking whiskey while listening to live music is a nothing short of a religious experience. From Cuban samba to French jazz and everything in between, the stage is a lively diversion from the packed lockers of whiskey that line the walls.

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 Minton’s

Minton’s located in Harlem, is a revival of an old jazz supper club that was originally founded in 1938. Minton’s was the musical playground of some of modern jazz’s famous founders such as Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Benny Goodman. With a performance list like that, it’s easy to see why Minton’s is called the birthplace of modern jazz and bebop. The original Minton’s closed in 1974 after a fire broke out and destroyed much of the building. 

Today’s reincarnation of Minton’s is superb. It’s old school charm with a updated vibe. The food is southern revival cooking with low country notes. Think fried chicken and okra and thee best biscuits you’ve ever had. And while you’re enjoying all that yumminess, a stage full of musicians is filling the room with outstanding jazz.

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{Photo courtesy of Mintons.com.}

Claudette

Oh, Claudette. Je t’aime. Your French Provencal cuisine highlighting North African aromatics has set my heart aflutter. Your lavender martini was heavenly and your bouillabaisse was the best I’ve had. The beautiful decor and open French doors embrace the surrounding Greenwich Village streets, inviting passerbys to peek in longingly, wishing that they too had a reservation at the city’s newest hot spot.

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 Rooftop Bar at the Refinery Hotel

If you like a hip vibe on a warm summer night, check out the rooftop bar at the Refinery Hotel. You can almost reach out and touch the Empire State Building.

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I enjoyed putting the new back into New York City. It made me fall in love with the Big Apple all over again. I did, however, go back to just one of my old, favorite haunts – Sprinkles Cupcakes. There are just some things that are too good to pass up.

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  • Rusty

    Great article Karena. Gets me excited about NYC all over again.